Thursday, May 29, 2008


If you think Harry Potter books are just for kids, think again. Some of the wordplay is probably lost on young readers. I especially like "Diagon Alley" (diagonally, get it?), and "Knockturn Alley", where the dark arts are sold, is an even better example. The "Pensieve" is a great invented word for a device that allows viewing someone's memories. Plus, these spellbinding adventure stories have become a huge part of the pop culture, and you don't want to be left out. Recently I spotted a car whose back end was spattered with various Harry Potter bumper stickers, not one of which mentioned him explicitly by name. Everyone needs to know what Gryffindor, Quidditch, and Parseltongue are, right? And the movies have become so ubiquitous that I sometimes wonder if J. K. Rowling is influenced by their depiction of her characters. Is Harry looking more and more like Daniel Radcliffe in her mind? The movie based on the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is coming out in November. Start with this book if you've already seen the movies and don't want to read the first five. This is the penultimate in J. K. Rowling's series, and it continues with some of the same themes as the previous volumes as it builds to the conclusion in the seventh book. As she says, seven is a magical number, and it also figures into the plot of Half-Blood Prince, named for the unknown former owner of Harry's Potions textbook. The Prince's handwritten margin notes help Harry out on more than one occasion and not just in his school work. Half-Blood Prince answers a few nagging questions, such as why Voldemort thinks he's immortal and why the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position is a revolving door. It also seems to settle the matter of Snape's allegiance, but I'm reserving judgment until I've completed the series.

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